Image via WikipediaI was asked recently about the future of distance learning. Because of my experiences here at College of the Redwoods, I thought immediately of Lenin's analysis of Marx's stateless communism: the "withering away of the state." That is the idea that the very concept of a state, and the process that creates a state, contains its own dissolution. Whether or not we agree with that, lecture capture technology like Tegrity is doing something similar with the idea of "distance learning." The future of distance learning is that the technology will one day eliminate the distance in distance learning. At a couple of colleges I have worked at, we struggled with the definitions of "eLearning"; full-online, hybrid, web-enhanced, etc. These definitions were important in bringing classes through various committees and communicating to the students exactly what is involved in taking a particular class. Each course delivery modality has its own set of tools and pedagogy - strategies for making the delivery mode work. Meanwhile, the research is telling us that there is no significant difference in student success, completion rates and retention between face-to-face and distance learning modes. So the question then becomes how do we teach that way? Or even, why don't we teach that way? One of the reasons is that until recently, there was not much of a choice. The idea behind multimodal delivery is that a student could take a class online or face-to-face and get the same experience, almost literally, as any other student. The way that would happen is if the lecture capture technology allows students to participate live from home, and captures the video, audio, computer screen, and whiteboard of the instructor, as well as the student's interactions with the teacher and one another. We looked at this technology in the past. Typically, we would go with the open source solution, in this case that would be Matterhorn. But we did not have the staff or the technical infrastructure to support it. After looking at services and costs, we chose Tegrity. The training and support from Tegrity has been excellent. They not only facilitated the training, but they passed the training materials on to us afterwards so we could use them with new faculty or for later faculty review. The feedback from the teachers and students has been very enthusiastic. Tegrity is being used by nursing instructors and some of their students said that they would not have passed the class without being able to review the course materials later. In Tegrity, students are able to book mark lectures they are viewing live and go back and find those moments in the recorded archive. The students can also interact with other students viewing the archive and ask questions and share information.
We have courses here that are similar experiences for the students. We have math courses that use the old ITV model (instructional television): the courses are broadcast on television, streamed on the web, archived, and include a telephone link for the home viewing students to call in questions. I think that Tegrity will one day replace these courses. As technology begins to allow students to not only view course materials but to actually interact with one another, the idea of delivery mode and the so-called differences will begin to wither away.